Understaffing and admission restrictions at nursing homes contributing to overwhelmed hospitals

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 11:01 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Hospitals are not the only facilities overwhelmed by an increase in patients due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Nursing homes and long term care facilities are also feeling the pressure, coupled with admission restrictions due to outbreaks at facilities.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, the state has 186 active COVID-19 investigations at nursing homes.

St. Paul Elder Services in Kaukauna is among them, which is impacting its ability to take on more patients.

“At this point we have so many people who are out positive themselves, because of the uncontrolled exposure happening in our area, or because they have been exposed or have a sick household member. We simply do not have the staff to be doing normal levels of admissions,” said Sondra Norder, President and CEO of St. Paul Elder Services.

One positive COVID-19 case within a nursing home or long term care facility constitutes an outbreak, which puts a hold on admissions at nursing homes, causing backups at hospitals.

“The guidance is that we shouldn’t be admitting new residents or patients for either 28 days since our last documented case or 14 days since our last documented case, if we were able to complete a round of testing of all staff and residents and have no new positive cases,” said Norder.

Another major challenge for nursing homes is getting access to testing supplies. The CDC requires nursing homes to test staff and residents so many times per week based on the county’s infection rate.

“The county infection rate in Brown County right now is 15 percent, I believe. So, anything over 10 percent you have test staff members twice a week,” said Cody Kivisto, administrator at Edenbrook Green Bay.

Kivisto says residents need to be tested once a week as well under those standards.

Everyone at the facility needs to be tested regardless of positive cases at the facility when the county rate of infection is at or above 10 percent.

“The state is only going to give you supplies if you have positives in your building, if you don’t have positives in your building you’re still expected to test staff twice a week and you have to find a third party for testing supplies,” said Kivisto.

The screening process for health care workers has also become so strict, many are turned away at the slightest symptom of COVID-19.

“Nursing homes are required to screen all employees at the start of every shift and any one symptom of COVID, including a headache because headache is a symptom of COVID, we cannot allow that person to work until they have a negative COVID test,” said Norder.

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